Optimum has competition in the Bronx now and I dropped them for Verizon FiOS

Does a NETGEAR AC5300 Nighthawk X8 work with Verizon FiOS?

Short answer: yes, on the 300/300 plan, it works perfectly and gets max DL/UL speeds over WiFi. After the Verizon modem was activated by the service technician, I plugged in the Netgear router, and it picked up a new IP address and DNS settings after about 30 seconds. It’s been running without issue for ~4 days now.

Moving from Optimum to Verizon FiOS

When I moved into my current apartment in the Bronx, the only provider available was Optimum. Anyone that has used Optimum knows it’s not exactly a top tier service provider. I’ve had to talk to them on the phone about my billing repeatedly and with two exceptions, every person I’ve talked to has been rude, unhelpful, and sounded uneducated. It’s the McDonald’s of ISPs, but like most parts of the country, there was only one ISP available in my area and it was them.

Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. Shortly after moving into my apartment, I registered my interest in having FiOS installed on Verizon’s website. I didn’t think it was going to take 5 years, but earlier this month Verizon technicians finally came and installed fiber optic lines in my building.

Not a moment too soon, either, because a few days later Optimum doubled my bill. Sometimes, a retail store will inflate the price of an item to three times what it should be and then (supposedly) mark it down to double its actual value and say it’s on sale. It’s a real scumbag practice and it’s illegal. Optimum is just like that; except they get away with it because people don’t have a choice. Or at least they didn’t. Competition means better prices for consumers, so I called up Optimum to see what they would offer to keep me as a customer.

I was expecting a deal of some sort and I would have been happy to pay a few dollars more than the $39.99 per month that Verizon was asking just to save the headache of having to switch providers and set up an installation appointment. Instead, I was badgered, insulted, and called a liar.

The Optimum retention employee that I spoke to told me that I was lying about Verizon being available in my building, lying about the plan speed Verizon was offering, and lying about the pricing. I really had to push back on him and tell him that he could verify what I’m saying himself through Verizon’s website if he wanted to. It was frustrating because he could have easily double-checked what I was saying without calling me a liar and making me question my own memory of what I had just done and looked at.

He then asked me to look at my bill so he could point out the supposedly amazing promotional credit I was getting that brought their inflated price down by $50. Then he asked me to look at the Optimum website where a $35.99 per month offer for 300/30 internet was being advertised. I asked him if he was planning to offer me the $35.99 per month to keep me as a customer and he said no, so I wasn’t sure what the point of showing that to me was other than to insult me. I ended the call.

The next day I called Verizon and completed the sign up through the web browser on my phone. The day after that Verizon came out and completed their installation in my apartment. The installation crew was fast, professional, and courteous. They were even on time and, prior to showing up, kept me updated via SMS so I would know when to expect them.

The service itself is great. I haven’t had any issues with buffering or high ping even during peak hours. The difference in page load speeds and gaming responsiveness is noticeable even though the plan’s download speed is the same. I think a lot of that has to do with the improved ping, which is half to a third of what I was getting with Optimum.

Verizon FiOS 300/300 speed test results from around 8 PM on a Monday night.

Keeping the Verizon plan cost down by using my own router

Verizon doesn’t charge a rental fee for their modems, but they do charge a router fee. Since I’m using my own router, a NETGEAR AC5300 Nighthawk X8 that I bought 5 years ago, I get around that extra fee and our first bill came out to exactly $39.99 with autopay and paperless billing enabled. I was a little concerned about whether my router would work because there seems to be a lot of contrary content posted online, but I had absolutely no issues. After the Verizon modem was activated, I plugged in our router and within 2 minutes I had completed a speed test confirming that the service was working.

The NETGEAR AC5300 Nighthawk X8 is a high-end router and I’m quite sure it could handle their Gigabit plan, though I’ll never need that kind of bandwidth. I almost got the higher plan just to have it, but we wouldn’t ever need it, so I figured there’s no reason to throw that money into the wind.

I feel pretty good about the value to cost ratio given what we use the internet for in our apartment. Plus, we have a stand-alone, no contract internet plan and, unless they have it hidden really well (I read through the billing and agreement), I’m not going to have to renegotiate the price with them every year like I had to do with Optimum. Fingers crossed.

Optimum offered the farm to keep me as a customer

I canceled our Optimum service yesterday after sitting with Verizon FiOS for a few days to make sure it’s stable and the retention rep and retention supervisor I spoke to offered me quite a bit to keep me as a customer. Their tone changed entirely when I said that I already had Verizon FiOS installed.

It makes me think that the first retention rep I spoke to really believed that I was lying, that I had no choice, and that he could talk to me any way he liked because I would have no recourse. Thinking about that made me even more upset about the situation and happier that FiOS is now available to us.

The retention supervisor offered me three months of free service as an apology for the way I was treated by the first retention rep and three additional months of free service to keep me as a customer (six months total), but it was already too late for that. Would you let someone talk to you like you are garbage and then roll over and accept it for a few months of free service? I have self-respect and dignity. And Optimum has competition now.

Jerome Ave Flooding Damage, January 2021 – Bronx, NY

A picture of the NYC Emergency Management Bus parked along the curb on 175th Street near Jerome Avenue

Living in the Bronx is exciting. You never know what you’re going to see when you go outside or even when you look out your window at 4 AM. For example, early last Thursday morning I saw a river where I expected to see an avenue.

4 AM Thursday Morning

A water main break at 175th Street was causing major flooding. The water main that broke was cast iron, 48″ across, and was installed in 1909. It’s kind of hard to believe that something installed in 1909 was still holding up considering all of the traffic that rolls across Jerome every day and the vibrations from the elevated 4 train. Maybe this will encourage local politicians to address the traffic issue in this area.

Jerome Avenue sits in a depression that I’ve always wondered about. Was it a river in the past that was converted into a roadway? Or just a natural valley? Regardless, it is now a major thoroughfare in the Bronx both for vehicles and for an elevated train line. That worked to funnel the water towards I-95, which sits at an even lower elevation and crosses under Jerome Ave a block away.

I can’t say I was completely unhappy to see the street flooding, even though I was worried about my car and the impact on local businesses that I frequent. This stretch of Jerome Avenue is usually filthy. It needed a good wash. It needs a second wash for good measure, but I don’t suppose that’s going to happen anytime soon. Maybe when the two new buildings that are going up are finished and new people and businesses start moving into the neighborhood? I have hopes that this section of the Bronx, being right on a train line and with quick access to two major highways, will be vastly improved over the next year or so.

Anyway, looking out of my window at 4 AM, I could see that the water was hip deep and rising. Cars parked along the avenue were already half-submerged. What I couldn’t quite figure out is why the water seemed to be so deep between 177th Street and 175th Street, but was almost completely absent from 175th Street down towards I-95. I could see emergency workers standing in the road there. The difference in elevation from one block to the next isn’t that severe.

Thursday Evening

Later that evening I went out to get groceries and to look around. Most of the businesses along that stretch were closed or people were using pumps to remove water from the basements. I could see people in El Gran Valle on the corner of 176th and Jerome looking around and shaking their heads like they were dealing with a lost cause.

The road itself was covered with mud and there were emergency work crews surrounding huge holes in the intersection of 175th Street and Jerome, in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts. A reporter, Naveen Dhaliwal from Channel 7 I think, was on the corner. It looked like she was getting ready for the following news segment:

Friday

People clearing damaged items out of businesses on Friday afternoon.

Today (Friday), more than 48 hours later, water was still being pumped out of the basements of businesses and workers at a church and bodega were hauling damaged equipment, furniture, and other odds & ends out to the curb for disposal. Between the physical and fire damage from the riots and this week’s flooding, the area is really taking a beating. I can’t help but wonder if the damage was done intentionally to try to clear out some of these businesses so that more new buildings can be erected.

One last thing I wanted to note. ConEdison has closed Jerome Avenue between 176th Street and 175th Street for repairs. Today, some overly clever clown got out of his car, moved the cones, and drove down Jerome anyway. He was forced to turn around both by ConEdison workers and by the lack of a road in the 175th Street intersection. People really are something else in the Bronx.

Dashcam Video – Driving in NYC during Thursday’s Snowstorm

About 44 minutes of dashcam footage of various parts of the city. Links to locations available in the video description on the YouTube page.

Last Thursday, I was out and about in the city, driving around. I run a dashcam, because you can really never be too safe. Plus, there’s always the chance that something consequential or bizarre will happen and get caught on camera.

I didn’t expect the snowstorm to be as bad as it turned out to be. The weather report predicted 1-3″ followed by warmer weather and rain that would basically wash the snow away. I found out later that we wound up getting about 6″ total, but I knew we were getting more than 3″ while I was out there in the street.

This was the first time I’ve ever driven around during a snowstorm. We had a lot of snowstorms last year, but I just left the car parked because we knew in advance it was going to be something I didn’t really want to drive around in. Not that driving around in the city is ever that much fun anyway, but you know what I mean.

I was pretty happy with how our 2017 Honda CR-V handled the snowy streets. I only lost traction two times. Once was because I braked too hard and slid up to a stop sign instead of decelerating towards it. The other time was when I was making the U-turn near the Governor’s Island Ferry to head north on the FDR. I was going just a little too fast.

But, I never got stuck, which is more than I can say for some other people out there on the road. Not that it’s really too different from usual, but people were driving really stupid out there on Thursday.

First of all, people in 2WD cars were out there driving. That’s pretty dumb to start with. I saw a guy pushing a car on the FDR that was stuck on an incline while the driver floored the accelerator. That sounds like a good way to have a car slide backward and crush you. Here he is:

Second, it seems that snow means that you have an obligation to block intersections on north-south avenues and prevent crosstown traffic from getting past you. My experience looked basically like this:

And, of course, people were cutting each other off, jumping between lanes, and speeding, as usual. I had a guy cut in front of me to make a left turn and just expected I would be able to stop as usual. I’m glad I have an AWD vehicle with tires that don’t suck.

Travel time in the city was insane. Looking at stuff on Twitter and in the news now (regarding the kids being stuck on school buses) it looks like most people were experiencing vehicle commutes that were 5 times longer than usual, like 5 hours instead of 1. And most of that pain was self inflicted. To all of you out there that were blocking intersections, I hope your cars throw a rod. Jerks.

Anyway, I left my car downtown and took the train home. I was home in about the same amount of time as it usually takes me to get to Union Square. And, thankfully, the city used some common sense and canceled ASP rules for Friday morning, so I didn’t have to rush back downtown to get my car. That wasn’t really the point of it, of course. It was to keep people from circling in that snowy crap Thursday night trying to find parking that was good for all of Friday.

So, I read that this winter is going to suck, basically, because of El Nino. It’s supposed to be ~8 degrees cooler than usual in January and February. It’s pretty cold right now, actually. A lot colder than usual, and we don’t normally get this kind of snow until January or February anyway. So it’s probably just going to be a bad winter season all around.

I need to get some winter cycling gear.

Traffic Congestion and Reckless Driving in New York City

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018. W 39th St. & 6th Ave in Manhattan, New York City.

I was traveling straight in the right-hand lane when a Yankee Trails bus (lic. plate 41944-PC, perhaps, the video is sort of blurry) made a right onto 6th Ave from the left-hand lane and cut me off. I had to turn hard to the right to avoid having the bus hit the front of my car and probably rip the front fender off or worse.

This is obviously a violation of traffic laws and is reckless driving. Bus drivers in NYC just don’t seem to care about other vehicles on the road. Even MTA buses often cut people off or swing hard into an adjacent lane without waiting for traffic to clear, running other vehicles into oncoming traffic or causing them to have to slam hard on their brakes.

It’s ridiculous and this type of driving is consistent and constant in New York City. It’s not just the buses, either. A lot of people in personal vehicles drive the same way.

https://twitter.com/BradleyF81/status/984589080091594757

Take this driver, for example:

Every so often, Pix11 or NY1 will post a story on Facebook about traffic congestion and commenters offer a slew of theories and complaints. Those complaints have mostly targetted For-Hire Vehicle services, but I don’t see removing all for-hire vehicles as a legitimate or even reasonable solution.

Are there a lot of For-Hire Vehicles in the city? Yes, because there are a lot of people that need and use them. Do they cause a lot of congestion? Not really. Not compared to traffic accidents caused by people who drive like that Yankee Trails bus driver, or the person on Westend Ave in the second video. Or like all of the double and triple-parked delivery vehicles during the day that bottleneck traffic on main avenues and side streets.

Traffic congestion sucks, but much of that pain is self-inflicted. Legislating that deliveries only occur at night would be a quick fix that would dramatically ease traffic congestion during the day. That lighter traffic would probably lead to less road rage/stupidity, which would lead to fewer accidents.

But, that’s an easy, smart fix for average New Yorkers that doesn’t pander to business interests. It also doesn’t create an opportunity for the city and state government to screw New Yorkers with another tax, which they’re introducing on all for-hire vehicles fares below 96th Street starting in January 2019, supposedly to supplement the MTA’s budget. Being real, it doesn’t make sense to tax an unrelated service to make up budget shortfalls in the MTA. Being more real, that money will probably just line pockets and by summer of 2019 the MTA will be crying for more cash and raising fares again. Is anyone really surprised, though?

What did Saipov actually accomplish with his truck attack?

Lower Manhattan Skyline

8 Dead as Truck Careens Down Bike Path in Manhattan in Terror Attack

A driver plowed a pickup truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot by a police officer in what officials are calling the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11.

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I really don’t understand what the point of this was. If the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 had no lasting impact on New York City, then why run people over with a vehicle? Sure, I’m aware of the whole “we can strike at any moment, you can’t live your lives normally, woooaahahahah” plan, but does it really even work? Is anyone actually going to just shut their apartment door and never go outside again because of this attack? Is New York City going to come to a screeching halt? Of course not.

So really, what was the point of running over some bicyclists? About two dozen families have been directly affected. The rest of the city will pause for a few days and then continue moving. I don’t say that to downplay the scope of the tragedy for those families. Their lives will never be the same and my heart goes out to them. But, what was done wasn’t significant enough to change anything about how the average New Yorker goes about their day.

Furthermore, what was really the point of stepping out of a truck with a pellet gun and a paintball gun? Was this guy a moron or was he hoping to get martyred? Maybe that’s what this was really about. This guy was probably leading a mediocre life or felt like he was being treated unfairly in some way, and to compensate for that and increase his own sense of self-worth he committed himself to engaging in an act that he hoped would lead to his martyrdom. At least then his value would be recognized by someone. Maybe he wanted to die and that’s why he jumped out of the truck with what he hoped the NYPD would mistake for real firearms.

What kind of picture would that paint though? The heroic martyr, going into battle with the NYPD with a pellet gun and some paintballs. What a joke.

Sayfullo Saipov, the moron who was driving the truck, isn’t special because he attributed his nonsense to some dying political ideology in the Middle East. He isn’t a martyr. He’s a clown. And now, if he doesn’t die from the gunshot wound he received and deserved, he’s going to spend the rest of his life in jail where, if there’s any justice in the world, his fellow inmates will work him over regularly for the rest of his life.

Raining Condoms on 13th St and Ave B in Manhattan

Just unopened packages of condoms all over the sidewalk everywhere.

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Found a trail of condoms leading around the corner at 13th Street and Avenue B in Manhattan, New York City last night around 11:45 PM or so, July 21st 2017.I mean, who did this? And how did it happen? Was it a break-up because someone was cheating and someone girl was flinging condoms at her former guy? Or was it happy craziness?

I mean, who did this? And how did it happen?Was it a break-up because someone was cheating and someone girl was flinging condoms at her former guy? Or was it happy craziness?

Was it a break-up because someone was cheating and some girl was flinging condoms at her former boyfriend? Was it happy craziness and people were just tossing condoms around for laughs? Was someone making an important delivery of condoms and their satchel ripped open, leaving a trail?

Spontaneous Fun With Citibikes

Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge Bike Path Sign

Last Saturday, my wife and I were in Long Island City. We wanted to head to Central Park to get some exercise, so I opened Google Maps to plan out our route. I noticed that there was a nearby bridge and I thought to myself that walking into Manhattan could be great exercise. I ran the idea by my wife and she agreed, so we started making our way towards the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge via Queens Boulevard. Near the base of the bridge, I noticed that the path indicated on the map is a bike path and there is a Citibike stand nearby.

Citibike bicycle stand on the Queens side of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.
Citibike bicycle stand on the Queens side of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

I don’t know why, but I was suddenly very interested in the idea of riding a bicycle over the bridge. I hadn’t been on a bike in about 9 years. The last time I rode one was when I was living in Singapore. Every so often, my wife and I will take a walk in Central Park and we’ll see people riding their bicycles and we’ll talk briefly about buying bicycles for ourselves to use for fun and exercise, but we never quite make it into a store. Standing there, looking at those bicycles and the bike path and the bridge ahead of us, I think everything sort of just clicked and we decided to stop thinking about riding bicycles again and to just do it instead.

Figuring out the process for renting a Citibike wasn’t too hard. The instructions are clearly printed on the machines that take payment and provide access codes to unlock the bicycles from the stands. Once you take the bike out, you’re responsible for bringing it back. Each one has a unique identifying number. Failing to return the bike would result in a huge fine. I think it is about $1000.00. You also have to put a $101.00 deposit down on the rental that is charged against the card you use. It sits there as a pending purchase for a few days. The most annoying part about renting a Citibike is that you have to dock it at the same or another station within 30 minutes of checking it out or you incur additional charges. That can be challenging if you haven’t memorized where all of the Citibike locations are. Thankfully, there are apps like Citymapper for Android that help out with that problem.

As for actually riding the bicycle? I thought I was going to die, pedaling my way up that bridge. I felt cramps in muscles I didn’t realize I had. I regretted all the desserts I’d recently eaten and all the times I put off starting up an exercise routine again. Hitting the downhill side of the bridge, where it crests over Roosevelt Island and descends into Manhattan, was a relief. It was also a bit dangerous though because the path is narrow and I had to share it with pedestrians and other cyclists going in both directions. There’s also a really dangerous U-turn at the bottom of the ramp. I can’t imagine there haven’t been accidents there.

Once we got into Manhattan, we were a little nervous. Riding a bicycle over a bridge is one thing, but riding a bicycle on New York City streets is on a whole other level. There were Citibike racks nearby, so we could have just parked the bicycles and moved on, but we had paid for 24-hour access. We wanted our money’s worth and we also wanted more than just a little taste of the thrill of speeding around on a bicycle. I suggested we continue to Central Park so we could use the bicycle paths there. My wife agreed, so off we went up 1st Avenue.

Looking at Google Maps now, we should have followed 1st Avenue to 70th or 71st Street and then used the cross-town bicycle path to head towards Central Park but by the time we hit 66th Street, I had begun to wonder if there were any nearby cross-town paths. I was trying to juggle finding the next Citibike station to dock our bicycles with figuring out where the bicycle paths are. I didn’t notice a way to turn on bicycle paths in the mobile Google Maps app, though it must be there because I can see it on desktop, so I gave up and we rode crosstown on 66th. Maybe Citibike should consider posting maps of nearby bicycle routes on bicycle stand kiosks?

When we hit the park at 5th Avenue, we walked our bicycles along the sidewalk until we found an entrance that could get us to East Drive. I think we were the only ones following the rules. It’s illegal to ride bicycles on the sidewalks and on most of the paths in Central Park, but everyone else I saw was doing it anyway. I don’t want to be the one that gets a ticket, though, so I did the right thing anyway and walked the bicycle where I was supposed to walk it. I also walked my Citibike in places where most people were riding, namely up some of the steeper hills along East Drive and West Drive. The Citibikes seem kind of heavy. That along with the fact that I’m not a seasoned cyclist wore me down pretty quickly. I still had a blast though.

Here I am, rolling through Central Park, struggling a bit near the crest of a hill.
Here I am, rolling through Central Park, struggling a bit near the crest of a hill.

We rode those Citibikes around Central Park for about 2.5 hours, checking them in here and there at the Citibike stations along the edges of the park on 5th Avenue and Central Park West. It was an amazing workout and it was good fun. It redoubled our interest in purchasing bicycles of our own to use, even if we have to throw out our couch to make room for them in our apartment.

Supporting Veterans on Memorial Day with Hot Dogs

The SN. John K. Morris and Sgt. David Gonzalez Veterans Hot Dog Stands at the Met

My wife and I met friends who are visiting from the Philippines at the Metropolitan Museum of Art today. We got there early and we hadn’t had anything to eat for lunch, so we were checking out the food carts along 5th Avenue. Last night we were talking about Nathan’s hot dogs at Coney Island so I was thinking about getting a Nathan’s hot dog at their cart in front of the museum.

As we were walking down the block, my wife pointed out a hot dog stand run by veterans (there was only one there when we arrived, but I took the photo as we were leaving in the evening). I’d seen it before, but I had never stopped to take a look at it. I almost kept walking, but it’s Memorial Day, so I figured I’d see what the cart was all about. The Sgt. David Gonzales cart had some information on the window that says the cart is owned by veterans and employs disabled veterans. The cart was named after a US Marine who was killed in action in 1970.

We liked the idea of supporting a business that supports veterans in a tangible way, especially on today of all days, so we decided to get hot dogs there. While the lady behind the counter was preparing our food, I asked her what branch she served in. She said she was in the Marines. I told her I was in the Army. We talked about the military for a few minutes and when it came time to pay, she insisted that the hot dogs were on her. I really appreciated the thought, but slipped some cash into her tip box when she was helping the next customer anyway.